Photo Editing 101

I would like to preface this post by saying that some people prefer to leave their photos unedited. The #Unfiltered look is big on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and even WordPress, so if you don’t have any desire to edit photos, please don’t. Please ignore this post. It’s not a requirement. It’s not even an ’ement’. This is just something that I’ve done over the years, that I know a lot of people who use social media do and I wanted to share some shortcuts with you. That is all.

Okay, so I’ve heard it said many a times that a picture is worth a thousand words. To that notion I say that if my photo’s going to be worth a thousand words, I better make sure they’re important words being portrayed through my images.

For nearly a decade, there wasn’t a photo that I posted, sent or printed without edits. Many edits were small… editing out a logo here, blurring a child’s face there… just small things to ensure we were in compliance with FOIP (the Freedom of Information Protection Act) in Canada. Some edits were major… reconstructing the facial shape of someone as a means to ‘filter’ distinguishing marks, fudging the dollar amount written on giant cheques (though I regret to admit to that) and changing out the people who were holding the cheque, or even completely photoshopping someone out of one location and into another. Over time I became a master at turning a photo into pretty much anything that I wanted it to be. And that says a lot because I am very picky when it comes to photos.

Luckily, from a blogging perspective, the editing (if one chooses to do so) need not be nearly as complicated as what’s practiced in the corporate world.

Before I get to the edition notes, I will say that things are a lot easier if you take good photos to start with. Take advantage of natural lighting where possible (the sun). Make sure the lens is in focus before you take the photo. If there are people in the photo that differ vastly in heights, do something to balance that height difference. These are all small steps you can take to vastly improve the quality of photos you’re taking from the get-go.

Okay, onto photo editing:

*Note – This information is from the perspective of photos being taken on a phone, since smartphones are everywhere and you use your phones to upload to social media platforms.

The number one thing that I would recommend a blogger do to edit photos is download Adobe Lightroom to your phone. There is both a free and a premium version of this app. Please do not purchase the premium version, you will not need it. Everything you need to make a photograph beautiful, you can find in the free version. Free Adobe Lightrom will allow you to:

  • Crop Images
  • Auto adjust the lighting to your photos
  • Manually adjust the lighting to your photos
  • Edit the colour balance of your photos
  • Sharpen, blur, correct, create frames or vignettes for any effects that you might like
  • Attempt to correct the focus as much as possible (if it’s an extremely blurry photo, it’ll likely just make it less blurry…)
  • Allow you to select between ‘presets’ created with specific intention to do all of the above steps in one

Examples of before and After using Adobe Lightroom:

The number two thing that I will recommend with respect to photo editing is to stay away from Facetune. Facetune is a demon that is changing the way that we see ourselves and other people. It contributes to low-self esteem because people are creating unrealistic standards of beauty and attractiveness based on what they can make themselves look like with a few minutes spent editing in Facetune. There’s a big difference between editing out a zit and changing one’s waist from being 30 inches to being 13 inches.

Now, all that being said, photo editing is all about you and what you find to be the magic factor in photos. If you like black and white images, Lightroom gives you the option to convert all of your images to black and white. If you like bright and light photos, Lightroom gives you plenty of functions that help with turning a photo that was taken in a dull/dark room into something that really pops off the page.

I am someone who likes bright photos. I want the colours to carry, the details to shine and even the dullest of days to look like a postcard. I’m providing some examples of my photos below and as you will see, even on a dull day (first, middle and last photo) it’s still possible to make the photo look like a postcard.

These are some of my photos from various locations and times over the past year. I’m not sure if you can tell just from looking at them, but they’ve all been edited to very much carry the same tone to them. I wanted the whites to be clean, the greens to pop, the skies to be the bluest that could be while accurately depicting what a camera on my phone couldn’t catch on the day the photo was taken.

I used what is called ‘Adobe Lightroom Presets’.

I know what you’re thinking and I hear you. ‘Presets, Vee? That sounds so extra. Who would bother?’

These presets are used by people far and wide on social media. If you’ve ever looked at someone’s Instagram page and seen similar tones to all of their images, it’s a safe bet they’re using a preset for their photos.

The ‘Preset’ is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a preset collection of edits for LightRoom to apply to the photograph in one step. It’s a matter of hitting one button in LightRoom and your photo is brighter, more vivid and depicting the image you want to convey in a matter of seconds.

Extra. I know.

But, if you’re particular with photos, it is a big time saver, helps with branding, makes your photos aesthetically themed and ensures you always have a beautiful photo, even on the dullest of days.

The presets that I use I developed several years back to cover my basis when I needed to turnaround press-releases in a hurry and always seemed to get sent shitty looking photos. They’re a ‘formula’ that I keep a tight secret around and will stay in the vault to one day be passed down to my children and grandchildren. (joking)

If you would like to delve into the option of presets, you can do one of two things:

  1. You can make your own. I highly recommend this option because it allows you to draw out the aspects of photos that you most appreciate.
  2. You can purchase some.

I highly recommend, if you download Lightroom yourself, that you try option one before option two. I say this because creating your own presets will allow you to create edits that you find most important in photographs.

It’ll also give you an appreciation for the photo editing process. It’ll also make you appreciate the photos you’re taking that much more and it’ll cause you to stop and think about your photos as you’re taking them. You’ll find yourself stopping to think ‘can I get better lighting if I make my subject face the window instead of against’, and various other thoughts of what’s going to make your photos better. Then, when you’re taking better photos, there’ll be less editing to do.

After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, you might as well make those words important.

If you tried your hand at creating presets and you didn’t like it, or if you’d just like some help and believe you’d like to purchase some Lightroom presets, the place to do is on Etsy. Using your phone type ‘Mobile Lightroom Presets’ in to the search bar and you will be innundated with different presets made by different designers.

I’ve seen them range anywhere from $3.00 USD to $350 USD. And let me be abundantly clear, you do not need a $350 package of Lightroom presets. There’s a lot to choose from, so it’s a matter of you taking a look at what you find most aesthetically pleasing and what’s the price you’re ultimately willing to pay.

With 17,034 listings to go through, though, I thought I’d provide a couple of suggestions if you decide to purchase presets:

  • A good Lightroom preset package will have 3-4 Presets. Don’t buy a package that has 99 presets (and they are available on Etsy) because you don’t need 99 presets
  • Realistically, if you wanted to use a preset, your criteria should be to have one preset for outside photos, one for inside, one for without people and one for with people
  • Don’t get sucked in by the ‘gimmicky’ presets like the one titled ‘Peach’ in the screenshot above. Might it look nice if your presets always make you look like you have tanned skin? Sure. But, it’s winter and unless you live in California or Florida, people are likely going to see through the artificial tan your adding to your photos. Try to select a set of presets that will be applicable to all of your photos year round, whether you’ve got a tan or you’re in the deep of winter

To finish off this exceptionally long description of how to edit photos, I would like to add a reminder to please leave face structure and body shapes alone in your editing process. You, your friends, your family and any subjects your taking photos of are perfectly beautiful just the way they are.

Yes, we all have insecurities, but that doesn’t mean that you need to edit the length of your fingers to make it look as though you have larger hands. (If you understand this reference, we’re soulmates) Insecurities will NEVER be fixed by making it look as though they don’t exist in photos. That and there’s a big difference between bringing out the beauty of someone and completely changing their entire being. People are beautiful just the way they are.

If you like editing, if you want to get into editing or even if you don’t like editing, thanks for reading and for making it this far. Go forth and do good, grasshopper. I have the utmost faith in you.

Twitter tips for bloggers

Include your blog link in your twitter ‘bio’ section. When people do click on and open up your twitter page, if you’re really committed to driving traffic to your blog, have your link right there, listed in your blog bio. Make it as EASY AS POSSIBLE for them to find your blog.

Use twitter to show off your personality. Tweet tidbits of your life, or the shows you’re watching, share your sense of humour. Let people know who you really are in small tidbits – 280 characters at a time. I can say with utmost certainty there are blogs I follow on WordPress that I’ve found I appreciated the Blog Author so much more when I started following them on twitter and started learning so much more about their personality. Show of yours! Be candid. Be friendly. Be yourself.

Don’t just tweet your posts link. In the tweet provide a description of your post, or, provide a quote from within your post. People don’t just blindly click links on twitter. They want to know what they’re clicking on.

If you can, add a photo to your tweet. You know the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’? Well, if you only have 280 characters on twitter, use your choice of photograph to give you those extra thousand words.

Follow Blog-Share accounts. These are accounts specifically set up on twitter to allow bloggers to share their work and to meet other bloggers. Some of these include: @bloggershut, @goldenbloggerz, @bloggerstribe. It’s basically an opportunity for free promotion. Follow them and take advantage of the platform they provide! They typically post threads for bloggers to share their posts and when they’re not posting threads they just ask for you to use their hashtag when sharing your post and they’ll retweet it and share it to their base that includes thousands of followers. It’s free promotion, easy promotion and a great way to interact with other bloggers.

Be Social. Talk. Make friends. Follow people without worrying if they’re going to follow you back. This one is important. People tend to tweet Twitter like it’s a popularity contest. It’s not. If properly executed it can be a positive means for you to promote your blog, content and self. The catch is: you have to let go of tracking if everyone you’re following is following you. You have to let go of the thought that thousands of people are going to just up and follow you. Unless you’re Ariana Grande and just haven’t told me yet, it’s all likel that your growth will be slow and organic in nature. Follow people based on if you like their content/personality/tweets. Don’t follow people with the expectation they follow you back. You want people to follow you because they want to, not because they feel an obligation to. And trust me, if you’re genuine, people will sense that and follow you out of choice, not obligation.

Jump on trending hashtags where you can. A few days ago there was one #3ThingsIWantInMyStocking. If you’re on twitter and see hashtags of this nature, share your thoughts. They’re popular tags because people are sharing and reading these tweets. Open up your opportunity to meet new people. And if you read something funny within the hashtag, like it. Let the random stranger know they appreciated their tweet.

Tweet consistently. Just like with blogging, people like to follow twitter accounts that are consistently updated. Whether it’s daily, or weekly, ensure that you’re using Twitter consistently. If you’re tweeting a couple of posts and then don’t use your Twitter account for a month, then people are going to get bored and likely unfollow you. Twitter is about interaction, and if you’re not interacting, you’re not going to see growth.

Tweetdeck is a free service that allows you to schedule all of your tweets in advance. Many services that allow you to schedule tweets will charge you for their service. Tweetdeck is COMPLETELY FREE! You need not make an account, your Twitter account is what Tweetdeck needs, you just have to allow Tweetdeck access. And, you can use Tweetdeck to schedule tweets across multiple accounts. The catch? You can’t post threads on Tweetdeck and you can’t post emojis. Realistically, though, you don’t need either of those things if you’re scheduling promotional tweets for your blog.

Tweetdeck is great if you work full time during the day or have a busy life and kiddos to look after. You can schedule your tweets so you don’t have to worry about logging in during the day to post. You can sit down at night after all the kiddos have gone to bed and schedule your post for the next day. Then, if you do get a chance to read twitter during the day, you don’t have to worry about posting, you’re at that point just browsing!

Ask your WordPress followers what their Twitter handles are. Want to make instantaneous connections on Twitter? Tell your WordPress followers that you’ve got a Twitter account and ask them for their Twitter handles. If you’re new or just starting out, this is an easy way of forming connections immediately.


Shameless self promotion: My Twitter handle is @MillennialMe88